In 1995, at the age of forty-two, Robert McCrum suffered a dramatic and near-fatal stroke, the subject of his acclaimed memoir My Year Off. Ever since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, twenty-one years on, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries’ every third thought. The question is no longer ‘who am I?’ but ‘how long have I got?’ and ‘what happens next?’
With the words of McCrum’s favourite authors as travel companions, Every Third Thought, takes us on a journey through a year and towards death itself. As he acknowledges his own and his friends’ ageing, McCrum confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with what Freud calls 'the necessity of dying'? Searching for answers leads him to others for advice and wisdom, and Every Third Thought is populated by the voices of brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients, hospice workers, writers and poets.
Witty, lucid and provocative, Every Third Thought is an enthralling exploration of what it means to approach the ‘end game’, and begin to recognize, perhaps reluctantly, that we are not immortal. Deeply personal and yet always universal, this is a book for anyone who finds themselves preoccupied by matters of life and death. It is both guide and companion.
About the Author
Robert McCrum was born and educated in Cambridge. For nearly 20 years he was editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber & Faber, and then literary editor of the Observer from 1996 to 2008. He is now an associate editor of the Observer. He is the author of My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life (2004), six novels, and the co-author of the international bestseller, The Story of English (1986).
"Moving, intellectual and unsentimental. I think it will become a classic."
Melvyn Bragg, New Statesman
"Books of the Year 2017 And enthralling, wise and very necessary read."
"An unflinching exploration of [McCrum's] own mortality and that of other people. It draws on personal experience, the testimony of friends, the works of great writers, and interviews with experts in medicine and psychotherapy, melded together in an engaging conversational style . . . McCrum's bravery in staring into the abyss cannot be overestimated; reading his book inevitably brings moments of terror. But Every Third Thought has something positive to offer, too. The approach of death can reveal extraordinary reserves of courage and heighten people's appreciation of the world around them."
"McCrum's investigative spirit takes hold and keeps pathos at bay . . . This is a brave book, which faces what most of us avoid thinking about, and it even manages a joke."
John Carey, Sunday Times